These images show the damage done to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant after Russian forces seized the plant at the start of the war in Ukraine.
The site of one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters was quickly taken by Vladimir Putin’s troops at the start of the invasion of Ukraine in February.
Russian troops have occupied the site – which has a 19-mile exclusion zone – for five weeks and now, for the first time, photographers have gained access to the abandoned factory and have documented the trail of destruction left by the soldiers.
Rubbish litters the floors of buildings, windows are smashed and walls are covered in graffiti mocking the Ukrainian armed forces.
Any vital equipment left behind was also ransacked. The Washington Post reports that 698 computers, 344 vehicles and 1,500 radiation dosimeters were destroyed.
The estimated cost of replacing all that equipment will be around $135m (£110m).
Mykola Bespaly, director of the site’s central analysis laboratory, who visited the site, said: “I cannot say that they caused harm to humanity, but certainly great economic damage to Ukraine. “.
Russian forces withdrew from the site in late May as Putin’s generals withdrew their forces from areas near Kyiv and focused on fighting in eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian officials have previously claimed that Russian occupiers held factory workers at gunpoint during a marathon shift lasting more than a month, with staff sleeping on tables and eating only twice a day. day.
Petro Poroshenko, the former Ukrainian president, said that the occupation of the site at the start of the conflict posed a risk for the whole of Europe.
“Nuclear smoke is not limited by borders. It can reach Eastern Europe, Central Europe and even Great Britain. The danger of nuclear contamination of Europe is very high, while Russia continues this war,” he said.
On April 26, 1986, the Chernobyl explosion and fire sent radioactive material into the atmosphere and became a symbol of the Soviet Union’s last stumbling years. It was one of the worst nuclear disasters the world has ever known.
The international community, including Russia, has spent billions to stabilize and secure the area. The unit where the explosion and fire took place was covered with a state-of-the-art envelope.
However, the dangers at the plant are permanent, as spent nuclear fuel rods require round-the-clock maintenance. Fuel comes from the plant’s four reactors, all of which are now shut down.
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